Saturday, 24 May 2014

Day 10 .. if I said you had a butiful doggie would you old it against me

One of the food areas
Holiday fluff !!!
And if I said I was an angle would you treat me like a deval tonigh!!!! .. you have to sound this phonetically with the tune ... but add this to another 30 equally well pronounced hits from a past era .. and that's what greeted us in the restaurants of our final stop for the holiday, the Rasa Ria in KK. Its a huge place and has 5 restaurants ... with the obvious down side that 3 of them had a roaming 3 piece band or two - who would gently serenade the tables with renditions from Elvis, a strange version of Hotel California, and well I will leave the rest to your imagination.. I did draw the line totally when they killed knights in white satin for me for the rest of my life...Harmony wise, they were always very good, but the lead solo was like a bad night on an ITV talent show... luckily though we were always helped by a loud Chinese group who made more noise than the entire 5 places put together... NICE !!!
The room
Holiday fluff in the room

Outside Coast
Inside Coast (before bill!!)
As a treat, we booked one evening at the romantic restaurant Coast .. all the write-ups are that it is good, but expensive ... and it was all that and more. a half bottle of red wine at £80 was a real eye opener for the evening... and I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the bill.

Japanese (had to cook to pay for the bill)
While someone ate 

Another night we ate at the sudo-Japanese place .. fun, but the food was cooked in regimental style, and no consideration was given to the fact that  we had only just started a previous course... but it was a fun night and Sakai was flowing...

Oran-utan park next to hotel
Next to our resort is a small  sanctuary for orang-utans, so we went for a visit as it was a simple 5 min walk, and you can never get enough of the Monkees :) (apes I know .. and monkeys I also know .. I was trying to make a small quip ... wasted ... again.

The rest of the time was relaxing, sitting under shade near the sun (35 felt like 50 is cooking temperatures not sun-bathing) - and with a beer or two, and an odd fresh coconut and rum, and an occasional dip in the pool, ... that was about it for 5 days.

In the Bar - surprised ?
I wont bore you with the blow by blow of this. But its great to have a few days of no jungle, no insect buffets, a selection of  foods (not chicken on the bone curry), a pool, and no rushing to get on a boat, mini-bus, flight etc.
When bored - sh*g a coconut
Holiday fluff on the pull
Hanging around lobby - pick up area !

Next post will be our big day out in KK on day 12 and some pictures as a selection of the holiday ...

Friday, 23 May 2014

Day 9 - Big day out .... Ah so ...

Beginning to feel like a Japanese tourist today ... It's just 12.30 and already had a boat trip back from turtle island ... now off to Sepilok wildlife preserve in Sukua
Sign for Sepilok
to see the orang-utans, some more of the indigenous flowers and orchids, a green viper snake that can kill you within 30 mins sat 30 ft away from the main orang-utan viewing areas, and a selection of Sun bears - after this, its back to the port and off via the Sulu sea to the river and the Abai Jungle Restaurant for lunch - then further up river to the Lower Kinabatangan River sanctuary and our evening river safari and over night stay.. Busy day ahead ....

A Sun bear is a "big dog sized" bear, big claws,  you could say it's
Sun Bears
the size of a big Rottie dog ... but weighs twice as much. A keen climber of trees being a true Pooh bear fan of honey, these bears are remarkable climbers ... but apparently are too lazy to climb back down ... often getting bored and just letting go and landing on the ground... 2 things struck me ...
1 no wonder they are endangered !
2 best not hang around under trees where Sun Bears are ...

Its nearly a once in a life-time experience to see the Apes, and semi-wild is going to be as good as it gets. The name Orang-utan means man of the trees, and we have heard of people trekking for 5 days through dense jungle and seeing nothing more than new nests. We don't have 5 days to trek the jungles of Sandakan .. and even if we did, you would have to question the logic of doing so, as I feel I have fed enough insects on this trip.  To see these creatures in the flesh though, is just amazing. they are beyond expectation, and are an amazing colour of dull orange .. which is actually how I thought they got their name. 

Viper Coiled in the tree
It takes me about 20 mins to see this Viper in the trees above my head ... luckily I am not doing those 5 days jungle trekking then, as I guess it would have to bite me before I spot it...  I will post a gallery of more pictures after the final blog ..

On the sea again on route to a night in Lower Kinabatangan River sanctuary and the evening river safari ... 

We are promised some wildlife (at last...) Not of course the new money Chinese tourist wild life  that we have been encountering of late !!

Worst sign - EVER
Our guide has chilled ( a little ) but is still running a school trip - the sign in the minibus says it all....
Livingston I presume ?

The river trip up towards a lodge for lunch draws a blank on wild life and very little on birds , but travelling at a fair rate of knots with a twin engined motor boat -I guess I should not be surprised ....

I am not one to moan, (well OK I am one to moan) but breakfast at turtle island was not really edible ... And I have lived my last 4 days on the exact same menu for lunch and dinner... with the 2 choices being either a prawn hot sauce and rice, with prawns in the shell, or a mild chicken curry with chicken on the bone. The only sensible option being the mild chicken curry and rice with either salad or veg. I have alternated the salad and veg to get some variety ..... but its beginning to wear on my nerves a little.  We are told that orang-utans are fed on bananas only .. as they get bored with the same food all the time and this forces them to go and forage for food in the wild .... I suspect we are being run by the same regime. 

The stop for lunch on the river, I did hope, would offer something different... Well WRONG AGAIN !!! Chicken Curry it is then ...
The main lodge where we are staying the night takes another hour of stunning scenery ..dense jungle ... And our first sighting of a monkey... OK so that's one off the list .. long tailed crab catching monkey.. check ....
The lodge .... Its another lodge .. in another jungle .. with power
problems, no AC etc. But it has been built on a nice walkway, to raise you from the ground, it has a roof, and its own shower and toilet ... so we are at least going up in the world.  The dim lights of the evening in the eating area, offer the same buffet meals to a vast array of insect life, and the overhead fan gushes air to force the biggest ones straight down to either your head, your dinner, or your lap .. but compared to the Long House, its not even registering.
Most decent shot I could find

We are told  by our guide as we arrive, in great detail, about the light switches, the fans, the locks... but LaLaLa is working this time.. he also says that in each room is a sarong .. that we are requested to wear for dinner... he goes into some detail about the historic relevance, LaLaLa ... and finally details the patterns that are for male and females .. he suggests we wear underwear .. yeah right ... If I am going to wear a skirt.. I am going COMMANDO baby !!!! (I would have been a real life Sharon Stone if I was born female .. tart
... :) ).

Charlie the cat
Shallow River boat
Our main luggage is stored .. but at least this time, we packed a decent travelling bag of wearable items and a small amount of toiletries ... CLEAN CLOTHES ... oh yeah .. the big time...
The evening cruise comes along at around 5 ... cameras at the ready, we pile into a shallow boat for a slow river trip ... just after we set off, we notice we have been joined by one of the cats ... Some cats are what I call talkers and some just give an odd meow ... This chap was rehearsing for the next "Charlie says" adverts .. look it up if you are younger than 40 - or don't bother - they were not very good, and being told road safety by a creature that had 9 lives and  didn't make much sense in the end !!!! Anyway we had to turn around and drop him back to shore ... The option of using him as crocodile bate did not seem to resonate with everyone.. and that why we didn't see any crocs !!!! The crocs there can grow to about 5 ft long, are mainly fish eaters, and I am sure they have another name, but I refer to them as Nile crocs... which is just as well as there really is not much protection in these camps between the river and the living areas ... so placid are these crocs, that in Gambia, I have photos of my son sat on one ... it became less popular after they bit a tourist or two doing the same stunt, but at the business end of the croc... and my photos now are seen more like Jackson hanging his son out of a window ... but at the time holding kids out of 20 story buildings WAS trendy !!! well that's my excuse ..  
Male Probuscis
Male Macaque
We did see a reasonable array of wild life .. the normal haul of insects having snacks, and the reason for our river trip the proboscis monkey ... in the wild... along with a much better sighting of the macaque monkey (you know - the long tailed crab eating monkey ..), a python, a few king-fishers, and a Chinese Snake Bird, a Toucan relative type bird, et al...
Chinese Snake Bird
Python (not called Monty)

Forgot this chaps name (Fred I think)

The Sarong .. My Photo is banned
Back from feeding the insect life their late afternoon dinner in the river ... its time to change and get back for our 7.30 pm ... CHICKEN on the bone CURRY or wide selection of dinner alternatives (as they call it). The proboscis monkey dominant male attracts his harem by the size of his nose ... The bigger the nose - the bigger the harem.. I knew there was link :) .. no one has yet explained completely why they have a huge honker ... but it draws the females .. and that's good enough for me ...  Anyway dinner, and in our new designer sarong  .. I am asked if I was wearing anything underneath .. I proudly announce .. no.. I am sure no-one wanted the mental image really ... but they did ask ...

After a royal banquet of 100 dishes, and a quick walk around the River lodge.. a look at another wildlife CD that shows the things we have just seen .. (attractive as it has AC..) and bed .. there is not much to do in these lodges ... 

Day 8 - Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles

Well it's non-stop ... Again ...... And after a not "too" late night it's a 4 am wake up for a 5.15 am pick-up to the airport.
Our 7 am flight takes us Sandakan, where we are picked up and taken to the port to go by boat up country close to the Phillipian border in the Sulu sea to Seligan Island and Turtle Island.

This is a big highlight of the trip. I have in my mind, as with all conversation type projects, will they have drawn an acceptable balance between the likes of us .. who are desperate to get close access to these creatures.. and the welfare of the creatures themselves as part of the wildlife of the world. Either way I am not going to let this spoil the experience of the trip, even if the balance is not quite right.

Like clockwork.. our guide is waiting with transport to take us to the port.. he is not from Borneo Adventures (who have been terrific so far) but is a sub-contract to them from a company called SI tours. Its early .. and I am not famous for my sense of humour with jet lag still hanging around from the trip long trip over, time zones all over the place, and a 4 am start. He is no comedian. Its quite difficult to relate in text .. but imagine the way the person who meets you is trying to tell you, on your return from holiday, that your cat is dead, your goldfish has been knocked over by a bus, and your dog have been impounded for biting the local policeman, your wife has run off with your best friend and your kids are in social care.  That stuttering in their voice, the hesitation and lack of focus on what they are saying, jumping from kids in care but not to worry as wife wont know so its OK, and cat does mind either ... without any facts or completion around the comments .... That's how our first conversation started with our new guide. 

"(stuttering etc ..) well you need to know, as I suppose you should, but its not bad really, well I wouldn't be going if it was, believe me .. its safe - and it all happened a long long way away .. so don't worry, you will see lots of fully armed military, but they keep to their own side of the island ... its safe really .. I have lived here most of my life and ....."

At this point, or somewhere around this point, we started to ask .. WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT !! he muttered on - but by now all politeness of allowing him to mumble around various topics without finishing a sentence had gone. Unable to really pin him down, we drilled him to something about kidnapping, phillipians, pirates, yacht, death was an accident, not near here, fishing boat but only took his engines, and some people have cancelled, but its OK they obviously did not take his word that it was safe... GO FIGURE I thought ... but still had no real idea what exactly he was talking about.

By now we had arrived at the drop point early, and we had an hour of free time, so its to a cafe, with internet, and our old friend GOOGLE .... Long story short .. OK shortish ... there has been a few months of kidnapping incidents, most recently a yacht, not far from where we were,  the owner taken hostage, a killing or two, and even though this was further down the coast, it was all pillipian pirates, and we were at the closest point to the pillipian boarder in the country. I could see utter panic on the face of Sandra .. a total loss of humour, and Turtles being off the menu (so to speak). She started trying to debate the potential risks of the trip, fleeting in and out of the movie we had recently seen ... Captain Phillips. Good timing Tom Hanks !!!!! She could see herself jumping into shark infested waters whilst numerous failed attempts to save her by Navy Seals left her at the mercy of barbaric Somalians ... I did try to take this seriously.. but inside I .. well I needed to nip to the loo as my bladder was popping trying to hold in the laughter...

As time went on, the guides fumbled way of discussing this with us had fizzled away, the fact that actually the army is ALWAYS based on the island, the sight of extra military presence in the sea around us, and the fact that there was probably little financial gain form a bunch of tourists on a shared boat and maybe they would be after more lucrative targets, all prevailed and we went on the trip. So as you can imagine the guide had a blotted copy book, and was going to have to up his game significantly to get us back on side.

I am not sure if it is SI tours - or the fact that they recruit idiots - but the guides from this company were all the poorest, unhappiest, and least professional communicators I have ever encountered. His language was more like an adult talking to 10 year olds on a field trip. He would repeatedly tell us details of how to turn lights on, what the door nob looked like at our cabin, and how to use the key to open the door, validating his detail with a long story of how a recent tourist had NOT UNDERSTOOD how to do these things. These are two examples of the 400 I could give here. How he lived this long is a mystery.. how he lived past telling Sandra about the kidnapping is also puzzling.  His copy book was not improving... Sandra wanted to go to war, I was being patient .. at least for a while, but that changed.

Anyway, on the boat and off to the island. Keep a keen eye "me harties" on the horizon for them dregs of the open seas .. Jonny Depp and his film crew .... of course I could only internalise this for now, as to have said this may have caused the entire boat to mutiny and return to port... It was apparently al-right for me to be kidnapped ..Sandra told me as I was grinning .. how we got to that logical point I still don't know?

The fact that I am writing this now, from a cell somewhere in the phillippines shows how ... oh Ok I'm not. We got to the island, trudged through the sand flies, and went to our cabins, the contents and direction of which, took more than 20 mins for our guide to explain ! (I am not going to be able to hold off much longer..).

You have free time until 6.15 when you must meet me here. I will take you to a presentation, and then you will eat at 7.30 (I was not sure what would happen if I still chewing at 7.31 but hey). You may swim during your free time, or walk the island you are not allowed to swim outside of the designated areas. If you swim outside the designated areas the life guard on duty will blow his whistle at you, he will blow it twice like this, and that's not a good thing. (I'm going to push this idiot overboard on the way home - after removing his life jacket!!)

So we decided to go for a swim and try to use our travelling companions - the snorkels. I say that as the snorkels had been with us everywhere - but never used .. more like a lucky rabbits foot than equipment used for pleasure. No sooner did we get to the water and have a brief dip and a sit on the beach, it started raining. best if we go to the rooms and have a sleep. Now do we remember how to turn on the lights??? oh yes that switch called light switch.. must be it.

Later - Our slide show was OK - it was a DVD no different and less quality than the wildlife ones we see on TV. they had an exhibition hall, where it was a good idea to pass some time after dinner, as the only thing you can do after dinner is sit around and wait to be called to the beach by the reserve guides .. in what we were told is a call of "turtle time".... our guide tells us .. "when we hear that" .. I wont carry on with how our guide described the process, but again it took 20 mins for him to describe even how to walk down the steps, as "a woman tourist had not UNDERSTOOD WHAT HE TOLD HER and..... " well anyway ... I was getting pretty good at zoning out by now. LaLaLaLaLaLa still buzzing around my head .. it was time for dinner.

After Dinner we get a run down again of the process by our guide.. "I am here - I am not far" he says .. "now do the exhibition hall as it has been as late as 3 am in the morning before you are called, but sometimes its as early as 10 pm, and .." LaLaLa had not worked this time. I had some sleep and it was time to try to get across to this chap that we were not children... the exhibition hall is not optional then? I asked .. "yes its up to you" he said.... that's good to know. I was trying to relate back to him that his words were not phrased correctly, but it failed. I did this a few more times, but failed each time. Best then to interrupt him - its appreciated but as people who have travelled the world, if we want you, we will find you. " OK - I am only out here - just there" I got up and said thanks, before I beat him to death with the salt.

We sat in the dark for a few hours, offering ourselves as food for every hungry insect that came to the lights and fancied a snack. The we heard "turtle time " shouted around the dark. I thought it was an example, not really what they shouted... 
Our guide made sure we put our shoes on in the right order, had our cameras, lights, etc. LaLaLaLa .. and off to the beach.
I was impressed with the way this was done. The turtle was almost at the end of her egg laying, any earlier might disturb her. We were kept out of
line of sight, with only 1 light used to illuminate the nearly empty hole where the eggs had been professionally removed by the staff, into a bucket as soon as they were laid to be sure of maximum success. Once, and only
when all the eggs have been removed, we are allowed to be in line of sight of the turtle, as she attempts to close the hole before heading back to sea. About a meter long, and half a meter wide, she was a previous layer (tagged) Green turtle, one of 35 who visited the island that night.. She and 22 others had laid eggs, and her 85 eggs were part of over 1800 eggs laid that night.

With care to the preservation of the Turtles sensitivity, we are only allowed to engage one turtle. This one. We see other in the moon light heading up the beach, and don't need to be told that any interference may cause them to abandon their laying and head back to sea. Its a sight I recommend. In the torch light she looked a shimmering blue, with huge eyes. In turns we get to take remarkable photos, before leaving her to head back to sea. Our programme is

not over. Taken to the hatchery we are then shown how her eggs are stored, labelled, and will hatch in about 50 days to be one of a batch released into the sea that evening.
It is now our turn to finish the evening and release some hatched turtles from 50 or so days ago. Its amazing how small they are, and as they flop around trying to get to the water, they head off in every direction. Two end up on my sandals, flapping away, and we are told we have to gently direct them towards the sea if this happens. I did, whilst trying to get a snap or two of the
experience. One turtle keeps heading back to my sandals .. this one is not up for a swim tonight .. but eventually I get him going in the right direction. Its now about 12 - and time for bed. 

Just amazing, and I was both impressed and pleased to be part of a preservation process that is well organised and caters for the needs of the Turtle and the tourist.